As we draw closer to Thanksgiving, we desire to give thanks to God for all His blessings in all circumstances.
In this sermon, we shall discuss some common hindrances to thankfulness and how to overcome them. While this is not an exhaustive list, it covers some key relationships in our lives. Let us consider:
Our Relationship with God
If we are to be grateful, we need our relationship with God to be healthy. One common hindrance to thankfulness is unbelief; which results in idolatry. It is difficult to be thankful when you turn away from God: our Creator. When we turn away from the true and living God we turn to idols (Rom 1:25). Nothing good happens when you begin worshipping an idol. What is an idol? An idol is anything and/or anyone that occupies a more prominent place in your life than God. Idols are counterfeit gods. Tim Keller said, “A counterfeit god is anything that is so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.” An idol is anything that is loved, trusted, and obeyed above God. Idolatry is linked to unbelief and a lack of trust. You might believe that Jesus exists, but you don’t trust Him with your life.
God’s cure for idolatry is the Gospel. The Gospel shows us the reality of God and His character. Those who are truly born again cannot deny God because they know Him. Being born again, we know we can trust God because He demonstrates His trustworthiness every day. Repent of any and all idolatry and unbelief. Confess your sin to God and receive from Him mercy, grace, faith, and increased confidence. Get your relationship with God right and you can begin to be thankful.
Our Relationship with Ourselves
If we are to be grateful, we need our relationship with ourselves to be healthy. One common hindrance to thankfulness is pride; which results in envy. It is difficult to be thankful when we compare ourselves to others. Do you realize that pride has more to do with your heart than it has to do with what anyone else has or does? How can you keep one eye focused on yourself and what you should have or don’t have while also keeping an eye on Jesus? Pride and envy result in a critical spirit which dampens gratitude. Pride hinders us from coming to God (Ps 10:4). Pride produces spiritual decay (Hos 7:9-10). Pride leads to ruin (Prov 16:18). Jealousy is rottenness to the bones (Prov 14:30).
God’s cure for pride and envy is the Gospel. The Gospel reveals to us that there is nothing in us worth boasting about. We see the ineffectiveness of our own goodness. We are poor, miserable sinners in desperate need of God’s mercy. We cannot boast in anything of our own because all we deserve is God’s wrath. It has been said that the only thing we contribute to our salvation is the sin that needs to be forgiven. Hand over your pride and envy to God and receive from Him humility and generosity. Get your relationship with yourself right and you can begin to be thankful.
Another Important Relationship
If we are to be grateful, we need to have self-control over our bodies. A common hindrance to thankfulness is lust. It is difficult to be thankful when you are consumed with desires for that which you cannot (or should not) have. Proverbs 11:6 “The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.” Concerning lust, we once lived in it (Eph 2:3), now we must consider it dead (Col 3:5), deny it (Titus 2:12), flee from it (2 Tim 2:22), and refuse to carry it out (Gal 5:16).
God’s cure for lust and sexual sin is the Gospel. The Gospel shows us that He is the owner of our body and we are to use it to bring glory to Him (1 Cor 6:19-20). Our lust reveals that we are not fully surrendered to Him and we are not delighting in Him above all. Hand over your lust and sexual sin to God and receive from Him self-control.
Our Relationship with Others
If we are to be grateful, we need to strive for healthy relationships with others. This relationship is different from the other ones mentioned above because we are not promised peace with those around us. We are told to strive for peace (Rom 12:18 & Heb 12:14) but we are not promised peace. Knowing this, another common hindrance to thankfulness is hatred. It is difficult to be thankful when you hate someone. How can you have bitter jealousy towards someone and also give thanks to God? Bitter jealousy is demonic (James 3:14-15). It has been said that complaining is praying to a false god. Hatred stirs up strife (Prov 10:12). We are told by Paul in Ephesians 4:31, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph 4:31).
God’s cure for hatred and bitterness is the Gospel. The Gospel shows us God’s great love for us. Because He loves us, we can love one another. All the boundaries and hostilities are removed once we are reconciled to God. How can we say we love God and yet hate our brothers (1 John 4:20). Hand over your hatred and bitterness to God and receive from Him genuine love and goodwill.
Breaking Down Barriers to Thankfulness
As we have learned, the only way to break down any barriers in your life that are keeping you from being thankful is the Gospel. Milton Vincent wrote in A Gospel Primer for Christians:
The more absorbed I am in the gospel, the more grateful I become in the midst of my circumstances, whatever they may be. When I look at any circumstance that God apportions me, I am first grateful for the wrath I am not receiving in that moment. Second, I am grateful for the blessings that are given to me instead of His wrath. This two-layered gratitude disposes my heart to give thanks in all things (1 Thess 5:18) and it also lends a certain intensity to my giving of thanks. Such a gospel-generated gratitude glorifies God, contributes to peace of mind (Phil 4:6-7), and keeps my foot from the path of foolishness and ruin (Rom 1:21-22 & 28-29).A Gospel Primer by Milton Vincent